Today is the Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul. It coincides this year with the jubilee celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul. Thus, Pope Benedict XVI has declared this the year of St. Paul. In contemplating his life, I realize that I share some similarities with him.
St. Paul began as Saul of Tarsus. He was a very zealous man for his faith and made great progress over many of his contemporaries. Saul had a superior theological education and was a prominent pharisee when we meet him in the book of Acts as a witness to the martyrdom of Stephen. But once he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he had to start all over. The Church did not care how theologically educated he was, or about any of the rest of his accomplishments. They wanted to know if he was truly a Christian. They wanted to see how it changed his life. Needless to say, there was ample evidence of that. Still, it took St. Paul some 10 years to return to a place of public ministry within the early Church.
I find myself in a similar situation. I do not share St. Paul's theological education, nor his accomplishments, but I do share the fact that I find myself starting over now that I have come into the Catholic Church. It is helpful to remember that if someone of the caliber of St. Paul needed time in formation, then it should come as no surprise that I need it as well.
I find another similarity that I wish were not present. The more I ponder the depths of the Gospel, I realize just how much I was a pharisee, just like St. Paul. I was rooted in the letter of the law. Though I did not intend it, I think I often ministered condemnation rather than grace. I find that I now must un-learn many things in order to more fully learn the depths and the truths of my new faith.
It is my prayer, this day and always, that, like St. Paul, I may become an instrument in the hands of God to reach those lost in sin with His most precious Gospel. As I ponder his life in this upcoming year, I hope that I will find many more ways to imitate him... as he imitated Christ.